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21 MDS offers sleep enhancement class

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The Schriever  Mental Health Clinic offers a monthly sleep enhancement class in an effort to provide Schriever Airmen information about ways to improve sleeping habits.

"During the class, we oftentimes have people identify what their sleep problem is upfront," said Capt. Jordan Simonson, 21st Medical Squadron psychologist. "We talk about sleeping topics, such as what is insomnia, myths or common misconceptions about sleep and tips on sleeping."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep problems.

"Sleep is tied to a number of performance indicators," Simonson said. "When people don't have adequate sleep, they tend to work less sharp, their work performance and interpersonal functioning could go down. Sleep is one of those daily functions that if impaired, can have a number of consequences."

Studies show sleep deprivation may be associated with injuries, chronic diseases, mental illnesses, poor quality of life and well-being, increased health care costs, and lost work productivity. Sleep problems are critically under-addressed contributors to some chronic conditions, including obesity and depression.

One of the most common sleep disorders is insomnia, characterized by an inability to initiate or maintain sleep.

"Insomnia is the perception of inadequate or non-restorative sleep," Simonson said. "If people feel that they are not sleeping well that lasts for a period of a month or more and it is not due to some other cause, like medical causes, then they typically meet the criteria for insomnia."

During the class, Simonson also discusses the most common sleep myths.

"One of the biggest myths is that people need eight hours of sleep," he said. "People's sleep needs vary quite a bit, anywhere from three to 10 hours a night."

Most individuals also think sleep is constant throughout their lifetimes.

"In fact, our sleeping habits change quite a bit as we age," Simonson said.

The third common myth is if individuals are having sleep problems or difficulty falling asleep, they should stay in bed and try to sleep harder.

"Some people do all sort of things; they'll try to count sheep or more to different positions," Simonson said. "If you are spending a lot of time awake in bed, it's not a good thing. What you can do is get up and do something that is non-stimulating, i.e. boring until you feel sleepy, and then go back to bed."

Consistency is key, he said.

"Maintaining a regular wake and bed time is really important in developing a sleep routine," Simonson suggested. "Also, do not do anything besides sleeping in bed. Don't watch TV or read while in bed. Those types of things tend to interfere with the association you have between the bed and sleep."

For shift workers, Simonson recommended ways to help them get into a good sleeping routine.

"They should focus on the other aspects of sleep hygiene to make sure their sleep environment is free from distractions, and as quiet and dark as possible," he said. "Although, shiftwork may continue to be a difficulty, what we can do is improve the quality of sleep that they do get."

For more information about the class, to sign up or for other sleep-related issues, please call the Mental Health Clinic at 567-4619.

(Some information courtesy of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention)
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